Thameside Theatre: The show must go on?

WHEN YourThurrock launched a second newspaper (YourHarlow) in July 2013, we couldn’t help compare the Harlow Playhouse with the Thameside Theatre.

You only have to go to the brochure for the Harlow Playhouse to see a packed itinerary of shows and performances. Audiences come from miles around to see some great acts, show premieres and top draw shows. It has a "Friends of the Playhouse", a constant dialogue with funding streams and marketing relationships with key businesses in the town.

It contrasts sharply with the Thameside Theatre. Correction, the Thameside Complex. It is hard to know what is on. There is no brochure. Council officers, (apparently) who clearly know about these things, tell arts officer that it is not an effective tool.

Whilst senior council officers turn up to a kettle being boiled at the High House Production Park, they give the Thameside a very wide berth.

It is just a bit of a sad shell and as they say: If it feels as if it is closing down, if it looks like it is closing down, then it is, despite all the "listening exercises" going to close down.

Despite all that, the council are embarking on a listening exercise.

As part of Thurrock Council’s plans to check everything it owns and everything it does, the future of the Thameside complex is under the microscope over the next few weeks and months.

“This isn’t the first time this has happened and I’m determined to get this discussion right,” says council leader Cllr John Kent.

“There are a lot of services and voluntary groups based at the complex, but the key is the future of the theatre. We have to ask: Do we want a civic theatre in Thurrock?

“To me the answer is obvious – yes we do. The arts industry is becoming increasingly important to Thurrock and it would be counter to everything we’ve done so far if there wasn’t a thriving theatre in the borough.

“I want the local arts community – Thurrock Arts Council – to play an integral role in looking at the future of the theatre and the complex, and we must look at all the options too, but I want input from everyone.”

He said: “If my view succeeds, if we agree to maintain a theatre in Thurrock, what sort of theatre do we want? At a time when we’re looking at cutting services and staff, can we afford a theatre which costs £345,000 a year to run, can we afford the £½ million it would cost to bring it up to what’s described as a ‘reasonable state’?

“Or should we think differently? Should we consider working with our partners to create a brand new theatre, a theatre capable of attracting the big names, a theatre large enough to pay its way?

“We all love the Thameside; we all have memories invested in the theatre, but what if we create something bigger and better? That’s my dream for the arts in Thurrock and I’m calling on all those involved in the local arts scene to join with me, the council as a whole, and those investing in the arts here to make this dream a reality.”

The meeting of Thurrock Council’s cabinet meeting on Wednesday (13 August) evening will be discussing the future of the whole Thameside complex .

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